It was mid-morning and three days into my holiday. The weather was glorious and a walk in the nearby woods was an inviting prospect. The friend I was staying with took me there the day after I arrived, so I was confident I knew enough to not get lost and later find my way back home.
Once in the woods, I soon discovered just how big they really were, with junctions and diversions providing a number of different paths to choose from. I had some idea where I was, but when presented with all these options – and with bushes and trees disguising where so many led – I quickly realised my earlier confidence was somewhat misplaced.
I was faced with two options: stick to what I know and stay within the very limited area I was familiar with; or venture forth in the knowledge that I may get lost. Feeling a little daring, I went for the latter option.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before I became concerned as to whether I would ever find my way home. It was at that point that I realised just how much this walk was a picture of a more personal journey.
I am out of work, having taken voluntary redundancy in April. I could have stayed, but felt God calling me into the unknown. In stepping-up the search for a new job, I have struggled to know where to begin. Do I look locally or beyond? What do I want to do? Some days I am unsure how to even spend my day. With all these questions, ideas often swirl around but I struggle to know which path I should pursue.
The thing is, much like my approach to the woods, I didn’t quite anticipate this when my redundancy was confirmed. I never thought I would walk straight into a new job, but I did not envision feeling surrounded by such a plethora of different paths, with trees and bushes disguising the direction and destination of many.
Do I go left or right? Do I keep straight or take that diversion? Will that path take me home or will it lead to a dead-end?
Lost in the woods.
At times it’s been frustrating. Come the age of 28, I had hoped my life would reflect a clarity and buzz more akin to a familiar and exciting city. But it hasn’t always seemed that way. Don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits to having time off, which I am thankful for, but as time creeps on there are moments when I’ve felt rooted at the cross-paths, paralysed by uncertainty and indecision.
But in this frustration, God is helping me to look on things a little differently.
Walking in the woods that morning, I recall walking along one path. When I lifted my head, I was stilled by a beautiful sight: against the backdrop of the bright blue sky stood a swathe of brown and white tree trunks, out of which bore a multitude of branches and green leaves that were illuminated – and sometimes lost in – the morning sun.
At that moment, something dawned on me: I don’t know which paths to take and where each leads, but I must savour where I am at right now – not just on my journey through the uncertainty of the woods, but in the uncertainty of life. It was an incredibly freeing thought. Since returning home – where confusion and anxiety still threatens to overcome – this picture has been an anchor for me.
I am learning – often slowly! – to take each day as it comes, committing it to God’s faithful care and leading, and savouring the moments God takes me on. And with that, I’m taking those paths that seem good and curious to venture down, freely seeing where God may take them – even if only to a dead-end.
If like me you feel lost in the woods – standing on its rugged ground and surrounded by many paths, where scattered bushes and tall trees disguise all sense of direction – take time to look and feel above and around you. Take in the picture. Breathe in the moment. Explore the unknown. We can get so preoccupied with getting out of the woods that we forget the beauty, adventure and grace waiting for us in the woods. We must halt our restless and fretful hearts and simply get lost.
As we do so, we may just find our way home.